State of the Union Doesn't Sit Well in Wall Street

president obama speechLast night, President Obama addressed the world with the traditional, annual State of the Union address. Every year, all legislative and supreme branches meet together to listen to The President speak about the current "state of the union." Usually, the speech discusses trials that the country has faced the prior year and ways those problems were overcome. Also, plans for the future are discussed and if the watching politicians agree, statements are met with a cheering applaud or even a standing ovation. Considering the democrats and republicans are split in the room, it usually involves half of the room cheering while the other half grunts and moans.

A big portion of President Obama's speech last night focused on the current state of the economy. What really intrigued me, was the amount of contradiction I found between what he was saying to what he is currently doing. He talked of injecting money and tax incentives into small businesses (which by the way is what I have been saying the past year!), however, small businesses are getting killed with increased taxes, higher energy costs, and more stringent government restrictions. He also discussed eliminating capital gains tax for investment in small businesses, however, the recent changes that have been made have been the exact opposite to that. Are these really his plans or was he just trying to get a louder cheer?

Later on in his address, which is what Wall Street took the most offense to, President Obama discusses the banks. He tried to clarify that it was not his intention to declare "war on the banks," but clearly he plans on fighting them. He said if they can afford big bonuses, they can afford higher taxes to payback the taxpayers that loaned them money during the crisis (which we had no say in!). He also alluded to the fact of much tighter regulation of the banks as well as transparency, which are two "no no's" to be saying around big banks. Today's response from the markets, in which the Dow closed over 100 points, shows that Wall Street did not appreciate the remarks.

Microsoft beat earnings expectations today, however, guidance for the next quarter was much lower than analyst were hoping for. This is a trend we are starting to see from most businesses. Companies are proceeding with much caution into 2010, knowing that struggles and pains of our dragging economy are far from over. In fact, we may be seeing the last of a 10,000+ DOW by the end of the week, as dismal data is picking up.

Fed Chairman, Ben Bernanke, was extended another term, which gave Wall Street another reason to cry. In the past, Big Ben has not been the most compatible chairman with Wall Street and has created some problems recently. In addition to that, jobless claims continue to surprise analysts, as more and more jobs are still being loss.

Support levels for the market are crumbling beneath us. We have seen a spike in the VIX since mid January and it seems as if we are beginning the next leg down. Puts on GDX and DIG are appealing to my portfolio, as well as going long on FAZ and EEV. Emerging markets are experiencing even more pain as President Obama made it very clear, he wants things to stay "domestic" going into 2010. I will also discuss some other "Pro-Bama" stocks that should benefit from his next 3 years (possibly more) in office. Happy Trading.

PS - For those that haven't, add me on Twitter for more daily commentary.

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Steve Jobs Unveils Apple's iPad

Markets experienced mixed trading throughout the day, which closed with all of them being moderately up, however Apple remained strong throughout the entire day. This because of the live presentation Steve Jobs (CEO of Apple) gave to the world, which demonstrates their newest product, the iPad. With this post, I am posting the video of Jobs himself demonstrating the strengths of the product. He claims it to be "the best web browsing experience you've ever had."

One extremely large standout about the iPad, is their new "A4 processor chip." I have been really impressed with the speed my iPhone 3GS runs, however, the new A4 chip is suppose to blow the 3GS away. The 3GS is claimed to have a 600 MHz chip, where the new A4 chip runs at 1.0 GHz. That's almost twice the speed. As always, I am skeptical at just how much this new Apple product can do for me, but it seems I am blown away with every new one. The new product is looking to retail between $500-$800, depending on hard drive space.

I think what made Apple investors happy was not only the release of the new media device, but that Steve Jobs was the face of it. During the past couple of years, there has been a lot of question regarding the health of Steve Jobs and his ability to continue with his responsibilities. He was even forced to take a brief leave of absence during treatments, which caused the stock to trade down over 10% in one day. However, today, he looked healthier than ever. You could feel his excitement in the new product and his anticipation to release it to the world. That was a good move for Apple to get him out there.

The FOMC meeting helped bolster the rest of the markets as it was announced that there is no immediate plan to raise interest rates. The fact that the Fed continues to leave interest rates so low, suggests their concern for the state of the economy if borrowing rates were at normal levels. I mean, when you consider how frozen lending markets are currently, with a 0% borrowing rate, it is scary to think what the activity would be at normal levels. As a result, they are opening up the doors for inflation more and more as money remains extremely cheap.

The dollar has been on a real strong push since the end of the year. I have been saying that a run in the dollar is due, which still points that deflation is still present. If it were not for massive government stimulus and o% rates, it would be manifested much more at this point. Gold and oil should continue to move in the opposite direction as the dollar, at least until signs of inflation start hitting hard. However, I do not see that happening anytime this year.

Commodities continue to fall at this point, which for me, makes the best option to short at this point. Longing the dollar is the only long play that makes good sense to me at this point. I do believe as we head deeper into the first quarter, financials will be back on the chopping block, as will real estate REITS and home builders. Happy Trading

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Carbon Sciences : New Technology

I have discussed many of my "penny stock" investments on this site and the successes I have had with them. One of my favorites, Carbon Sciences, got a nice boost today in stock price (up over 30%), due to a rather significant announcement regarding their development of capturing carbon emissions and converting it to usable fuel. Considering there has been a lot of interest in this company, I felt it was appropriate to post the press release:

Carbon Sciences Announces Major Breakthrough to Recycle CO2 Into Gasoline

New Process Technologies Also Shorten Time to Market and Reduce System and Operating Costs

SANTA BARBARA, CA--(Marketwire - January 25, 2010) - Carbon Sciences Inc. (OTCBB: CABN) (CABN), the developer of a breakthrough technology to recycle carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions into gasoline and other portable fuels, today announced the development of certain process technologies that will allow for the production of gasoline, shorten the time to commercialization and reduce the system and operating costs of its CO2-to-Fuel technology.

The company's current approach is an enzyme-based process used to transform CO2 into low-level fuels, such as methanol. Dr. Naveed Aslam, chief technology officer of Carbon Sciences, has now discovered a new and more cost efficient process to produce gasoline, a high-level fuel, from CO2. The key features of this breakthrough includes (1) the of use flue emissions directly from coal-fired power plants or industrial factories, eliminating the need for "clean" CO2, (2) the use of brackish water, eliminating the need for distilled freshwater as the source of hydrogen and reaction medium, (3) mild operating conditions, eliminating the need for capital intensive stainless steel equipment, and (4) a highly scalable system to transform large quantities of CO2 into gasoline for use in the existing transportation infrastructure.

Elaborating on the business implications of this new breakthrough, Byron Elton, CEO of Carbon Sciences, said, "We always wanted to produce high-level fuels, such as gasoline, but knew that additional steps would be required to reach this goal. Now, we have the way to go directly to gasoline." Mr. Elton commented further, "The United Nations' IPCC estimates that the cost of simply capturing CO2 for applications, such as underground sequestration or transformation into products, can range from $45 to $73 per ton of CO2. This cost is perhaps the single biggest economic barrier to any large-scale CO2 applications, such as carbon sequestration. However, by being able to use a raw CO2 flue gas stream in our CO2-to-Fuel technology, we are no longer dependent on the success or commercial availability of carbon capture systems. In addition, unlike biofuels based on growing plants to absorb CO2 from the air, our CO2-to-Fuel process is an industrial process that can produce fuel in minutes to hours, not months to years, to meet the demands of the world. These breakthroughs demonstrate why we continue to believe that Carbon Sciences is developing the most powerful and sustainable fuel technology in the world."

Commenting on the development roadmap, Dr. Aslam stated, "We are very excited about these new processes. Our end-to-end CO2 to fuel system will have several modules. We have determined that one of these modules can function as a standalone system for use by a sizable part of the energy industry for the production of gasoline. Inquiries from potential strategic partners have further validated our decision to focus on this module. We are anticipating a shorter than normal development cycle for this module and are hoping to achieve commercialization in less than one year."

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Apple Tops Earnings - Government Cuts

apple earningsMarkets slightly rebounded on Monday after the devastating two days of 200+ points of down trading to close out last week. I was surprised to see only a 23 point gain for the Dow today, as I thought the market might rebound a bit more given the two big consecutive down days. However, it is clear that investors are not excited about buying at current market levels.

Apple once again had a solid report of earnings (as they always do). Apple was one company that I mentioned last year, in which I felt that would be able to weather this recession very well and may actually come out of it stronger and they have done just that. The popularity of the Iphone continues to spread like a wildfire. I am always amazed when I attend large business conferences and see at least 80% of the people sporting the Iphone. Two years ago, AT&T probably only owned about 15% of their business. AT&T really does owe Apple a big one (I know they're paying for it). The huge increase in Iphone sales muffled the small decline in Ipod sales. It has already been announced of Apple's new release of a new media device. This acts as perfect timing for Apple, as it seems the Ipods are starting to lose their flare. As long as Jobs is still at the head of that company, I see nothing but good days for them.

President Obama announced his plan to seek a 3-year spending freeze beginning in 2011, as he has set new records for the national deficit. In addition to the spending freeze, he is also looking to tax increases to also help pay off the debt. With this plan, he is angering both parties and will most likely find little support for his plan. I agree that indeed government spending should be severely re-evaluated and re-allocated to areas that will directly assist the consumer. However, to also raise taxes at this point in the recession is, in my mind, a big mistake. Consumers need to become confident in the economy and their own reserves until they start spending again. An increase in taxes will only take a big bite in what little is available to spread throughout the economy. Also, consumer spending, usually directly effects the economy. Government spending is much less effective. President Obama should go back to the drawing board and find other ways of paying back the debt. There is a lot of real estate available to invest in!

At this point, I believe the market is building momentum downward. Thus far, 2010's economic performance has been quite dismal and has disappointed several economists hoping that we would begin to see much bigger seeds of recovery. Like I've always said, this will be a very long road home. Happy Trading.

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More Signs of PPT

ppt tradingReaders of this site already know my firm belief in the existence of market manipulation coming from the government. I mean, as influential as the stock market is, 100 billion dollars could go much further bolstering up the stock market then it would in the hands of Ford of GM. So why not? Sure it's absolutely deceiving and unethical, but in desperate measures, I believe those principles are thrown out.

A friend forwarded me a very interesting article talking about this very issue from people who see it first hand. I enjoyed it so much, I had to share it with all of you. This story, like many other, bring up a lot of questions of just how manipulated the market could be. So enjoy:


Is the Government Manipulating Stock Prices?

By Jeff Clark (www.growthstockwire.com)

After a 20-year career trading S&P 500 futures contracts on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, my friend Charlie suddenly retired last November.

"There was no way to protect yourself," Charlie said to me over lunch a couple weeks ago when I asked him about his unexpected decision. "This guy would walk into the pits and just start buying. It was unconventional. He'd buy at times when it really didn't make any sense – at least not to those of us who'd been around for a while. And he'd buy HUGE."

"It got to the point," Charlie continued, "that we'd have a bunch of our interns just watching the guy when he was off the floor. We'd know if he took a phone call. We'd know if he'd gone outside for a smoke. And we'd know if he started walking in the direction of the pit. That was our cue to start buying futures contracts ourselves – just to get in front of the guy.

"I knew it was time to retire," Charlie sighed, "when I started planning my trading day around this guy's bathroom breaks."

For the past 20 years, conspiracy theorists have engaged in stories about the "Plunge Protection Team" – a group of traders funded by the Fed whose sole purpose is to prop up the stock market. I never really bought into the argument, though. After all, an awful lot of people "in the know" have to stay quiet in order to keep the conspiracy going. And it's unlikely any group of people can maintain that sort of silence for two decades.

But Charlie's story got me thinking.

Then, last week, Charles Biderman, CEO of TrimTabs – one of the most respected and widely read financial research organizations – published a report that raised the possibility that the Fed is actively involved in boosting stock prices.
In the article, Mr. Biderman suggests it would only take $5 billion to $15 billion each month to buy enough S&P 500 futures contracts to boost the market 70%. Surely, with all the hundreds of billions of dollars used to prop up the real estate, auto, and banking industries, it's reasonable to suspect the Fed might use a few bucks to prop up stock prices, too.

At least it's something to think about.

I'm still not sure if I can completely buy into the whole conspiracy theory just yet. There is, however, one thing I do know for sure...

If the Fed has been actively engaged in manipulating stock prices higher, then it can manipulate them lower as well. You won't want to be the one left holding the bag when that happens.

Best regards and good trading,

Jeff Clark

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Obama vs Banks

pbama and banksDespite favorable earnings from both Goldman Sachs and American Express, markets were able to have one of the biggest down days on Thursday they have had in a while. The Dow closed down 212 points today as new worries are brewing from investors. Not only that, but volume levels were finally showing levels of normality, which goes to show that much of the new volume was selling volume. It could very well be reality setting in for investors that indeed this market is way too overbought.


President Obama spoke on Thursday, declaring his willingness to take on Wall Street and the big banks and to make a change. Many feel that his bold declaration was due to the recent election upset, in which Republican Scott Brown won the Massachusetts senate race. At any rate, today's reaction shows that investors are very skeptical of President Obama's ability to take on banks without severely altering economic growth. Just as I have said in recent posts, liquidity in banks will be a contributor to a recovering economy, as available residential, commercial, and business loans keep the money supply fluid and also helps spur employment. Sure, President Obama has a good reason to want to take on the banks and their regulation, due to recent years of extremely poor underwriting. However, too much regulation could very likely cause an adverse effect, sending this economy even deeper down than it is already. It was a failure of confidence in the banks that took the Great Depression of the 1930's into new lows.

Tomorrow's movement, particularly in financials, will be a big indicator of the true momentum of today's fall. If weakness in financials persist tomorrow, I believe a clear manifestation of investor's expectations will be solidified. As a result, big trades in my portfolio could be coming as early as next week.

President Obama should worry less about "declaring war" on the banks, and focus more on how to responsibly get money from banks into hands of responsible consumers. Sure, recent lending standards became much too lax and sloppy, but complete regulation could even be worse. Look for Friday's market performance to be a big indicator of whether or not we are seeing a turn in the market. Happy Trading.

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Republicans Spur Rally?

brown electionWell, it's hard to imagine that indeed one State Senate election could create enough momentum to move the market as a whole. However, today's election race in Massachusetts is doing just that. As of now, the republican candidate, Scott Brown, is leading in polls and seems to be the majority favorite for the job. Usually, an election like this would not make much difference, however, a change in party could have huge effects in the economy as a whole.

Even though Brown's election would not give control to republicans, it would most likely give them enough votes to block the big health bill, which has been circulating throughout Congress for months now. Many feel that passing the bill will bring several new regulation practices to the health care field, which in turn could end up making a big crater in profits. The health care industry is the most profitable industry on Wall Street, so it is no wonder that many eyes are watching this election closely and why we saw a lot of green in trading today, especially health care.

I had the opportunity to attend a large, national equity conference this past week. The results, were quite alarming, especially for those in the real estate industry. Most of the break out sessions focused on equity in relation to commercial real estate, but the forums were all encompassing, no matter what field you're in.

As of now, the FDIC is and has been poorly prepared for the amount of loans and properties that has been acquired by them. This has led to a poor disposition of distressed properties, which has severly affected real estate companies all across the country. The point is, both the banks and the government do not have the man power to manage the distressed assets that plague their balance sheets. There have been attempts to sell certain propeties, but much of them have been C grade assets that do not have much appeal to legitimate investors.

For many of these hedge funds, they all agree that illiquidity is something that will be present long into 2010 and 2011. Most firms said they were lending on secured assets, with a close to mid and upper teens interest rate! What is amazing is that people are taking those loans. This is my fear if indeed the government decideds to pull the plug on fannie and freddie debt purchasing (which they have said they want to!). It is clear that problems still very much exist and that it is much to early to blow the victory horns. Happy Trading.

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Small Business Frustration

restaurants closingsDespite continuing discouraging data hitting headlines, somehow markets are finding ways to keep going up. Volume still remains critically low, especially from a historical average comparison. It is clear that investors on both sides do not know what's driving this beast and where it is headed. In the long run, I always like to stick with fundamentals, as I do believe they eventually are forced to be revealed in stock market performance.

As of now, fundamentals are still remaining quite sluggish. Intel did produce higher than expected earnings today, however, the bar for favorable earnings has been set extremely low. The real question is whether or not these earnings levels are sustainable, because circumstances do not seem to be getting better anytime soon. My occupation gives me the opportunity to have a lot of interaction with a variety of small businesses. As such, from what I've gathered, many of the small businesses around the nearby cities (restaurants, clothing retail, service business, construction) are performing at record low levels. Many have a lot of frustration, due to much of what is on the news (that the recovery has begun and stock market rallies). Many feel that they are doing something wrong, which is why their numbers are still suffering. I try to tell them that indeed most businesses are still in their same position and that it is not an isolated incident.

Real economic results from real consumers will need to return in order to fully bring us out of this recession. If not, we will see many of the small businesses around the country, which we all love, not survive. Hopefully, we can see a change in the consumer this coming year, or unfortunately, more problems are ahead.

Retail sales were surprisingly lower than expectations for December, which was a downer for analysts. On top of that, last week's initial jobless claims were 11,000, compared to an expected 3,000. Most analysts are hoping that we take expressway back to economic health, where most likely, we will be taking side streets and hitting every light on the way. I, of course, hope for the speedy recovery, but also realize the improbabilities of such a recovery following years of loose underwriting and waste less spending. So, for now, I am waiting out this flat market and waiting for more significant volume and movement. Happy Trading.

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Sam's Club Closings

sams club closingWal Mart, the nation's leader among retailers, is showing signs of pain from this recession, as they will be closing 10 Sam's Club locations around the country. Sam's Club, which is the second largest warehouse retailer behind Costco, announced that the following locations would be closed down: Nampa, Louisville, Rolling Meadows, Houston, Sacramento, Irvine and Clay. Such a move is evidence, that even though many believe our worst days are behind us, retailers are still being greatly affected.

The closings are expected to terminate more than 1500 jobs, which Wal Mart has claimed they will utilize those being fired by finding them new employment in their nearby stores. Regardless of what happens, the closings are just the beginning of what should be a very popular year to close shop. We are talking about a top retailer in some very high income demographics. Clearly, consumer spending has not and is not projected to return to stable levels anytime soon. As I said last week, retailers are ripe for shorting. Happy Trading

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Unemployment Results...Not So Good

economic recoveryIt is becoming very easy for investors to get ahead of themselves thinking that from here on out, incoming economic data should be a lot more rosier than last year's. However, such early anticipation could end up in massive losses if conditions are once again weakened. I was very surprised to even see the market end up, despite some discouraging employment data that was released today. However, market volume levels remain record setting low, which could cause for the lack of reaction (no one is in the market!).

Analysts were expecting flat numbers to come in regarding job losses for December. However, an estimated 85K jobs were lost in the big holiday month, which relatively speaking, is much worse than expectations. Sure, it's not the -500k number we saw in some months last year, but for a December, holiday month, which is suppose to be on the forefront of a recovery, today's results are not good news.

In my opinion, businesses are not done trimming the fat. Corporate cuts are never fun or encouraged during the holiday season, which is why many save the bad news for the first few months of the new year. It gives the company a new beginning with new faces at new positions. Considering last year was a year that many companies will like to forget quickly, I expect quite a bit of new faces and changes.

Not only was employment data rather dismal, but consumer credit numbers came in horrible. A $5 billion loss was expected for the month of December. However, analysts were shocked when a 17.5 billion loss was the actual results. Sure, the measure can be quite volatile, which is why many don't pay too much importance to it, but the variance was a bit much for my liking. Credit tightening is something that can and will be detrimental, to this attempt of recovery.

There are many different distractions going on in the market. When evaluating the performance of the market in the 30's and when compared to our performance now, we really do not differ much yet. When you transfer the rebound that occurred, which lasted 224 days, in today's terms, that would put us at 10,544 at Dec. 27th. Sure, this date has come and gone, and no crash thus far, but it is important to take holiday skewed volume into account. If indeed this comparison held true, a drop in the Dow to 7,960 by July 17, 2010 would be the next move. Of course, this data cannot be compared as apples to apples, but it is interesting to see just how closely we have moved with depression crash. It is a friendly reminder that we are not the first to experience such a quick, rapid rebound in markets following a devastating crash.

The market will most likely begin to find its trend this coming week. Extended holiday travelers will most likely be returning home, as most schools are back in session. Sidelined money is becoming itchy and anxious investors are running out of patience. Look for some good moves this week. Happy Trading.

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Retail Looks to Slow Down

retailer stocksNow that the super bowl of shopping has ended, many retail stores are biting their nails, hoping that they can survive the coming months. I had the opportunity to speak to several different retailers over the holiday and most had the same story. It was a very scary year for them, and many are still holding on by a thread, hoping that indeed we've seen the worst days, and that it will begin to get much better soon. Unfortunately, for some of them, that will just result in wishful thinking.

Shorting the retailers at this point is very tempting to me. Most have made recent jumps, due to favorable holiday spending. However, I believe there will be a rather strong whiplash, as now consumers do not have much reason to shop. In fact, most retailers have to wait until late spring to start seeing better numbers, as they switch out there winter inventory for summer products. Even still, summer sales usually bows in comparison to back to school and holiday times. The recent run retailers have seen, should pull back for the next few months. Bed, Bath and Beyond jumped today on favorable results, which is one on top of my list to short.

The market is still seeing incredibly low volume, which is typical for the first week of the year. Investors are anxious to see the tone that 2010 sets. Most likely, we are going to see a lot of legislative changes this year, as President Obama has made it very clear that he plans to change a lot of things this year. Such changes are bound to have a performing effect on certain industries. Of course, the big one being health care. Health care companies are very nervous to see what this year brings.

For the time being, I am continuing to wait for more volume in the market. Under 200M volume is a very low number to be playing out there. Banks clearly have separated themselves from Uncle Sam and have their own agenda for 2010. Unfortunately, I do not believe "making loans" is on that list. Happy Trading.

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New Year...New Problems for 2010

stock picks for 2010I took a bit of a hiatus on the site during the bulk of the Christmas holiday, to spend time with the family. Volume remained very light to end the year and news was pretty minimal to the point that nothing earth shattering occurred. Anyways, I'm back and ready to take on 2010, with an outlook of good returns.

Being that we started the first full week of 2010 with a 150+ for the Dow, many investors believe we are taking where we left off. The Dow now sits above 10,500, which is well above what many (including myself) thought it would ever be by this time. However, there still exists much too many economic pressuring elements that could surprise many in 2010. With the help of government stimulus, for the time being, things have appeared to somewhat return to status quo. Few worry anymore of big bank failures, deflationary down spirals, or a even further deepening recession.

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Big banks are finding themselves in a much better this point then they were a year ago. Balance sheet transparency has been blurred, with help from government legislature giving them permission to manipulate accounting numbers to their benefit. The government has been very active in keeping borrowing interest rates low as well purchasing conforming mortgage loans. Also, bank stops have rebounded phenomenally, which has allowed many banks to be able to payback their "bailout liability."

One problem with the banks now is that not much has been learned from this past deep recession. Due to government intervention, many banks did not suffer the consequence of careless lending. All that has been learned is that if times get too tough, and your big enough, Uncle Sam will bail you out.

Now that equity is building up in the banks, the first thing most are doing is paying back TARP funds. This is not being done as a duty of responsibility or means to strengthen their balance sheets. It is more to enable the banks to release themselves from the puppet strings that come with the TARP balance. In fact, for many of the banks, paying back TARP, has only made them less willing to lend. After Bank of America paid back their share, their first order of business was to pretty much completely shut down their loan modification division. Now that their debt is repaid, they no longer need to play by the rules. They can now benefit from the 0% borrowing as well as not have to work with their struggling loans. Puffed up executive salaries can also now come back to the table. Unfortunately, the lesson of greed, and its consequences, has not been learned.

There is no doubt that lending will remain quite scarce throughout 2010. The government has made it clear of its intentions to put the brakes on the purchasing of securitized debt. Commercial lending will continue to remain slow as retail tenants continue to struggle and the job market has a slow bottoming. In fact, the commercial real estate market as a whole, will most likely struggle downward well into 2011. Residential led us into this crisis, and commercial will most likely be the caboose.

Such an environment is prime for opportunity. Potential for big gains is at the door. We have most likely not seen the last of big, volatile days. Most of the general consensus now agrees on the general direction of the market, which usually means the market is primed for a change. It is this part in recessions/depressions that can do the most damage. Happy Trading.

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